Exposing too much of minor charactersThis picture was taken at the 2015 Wizard Convention. Most of the pictures I took with my camera were actually pretty dim, as if each had a veil over the lens. It was, of course, the lighting of the room. This one, however was a bit over-exposed and I couldn’t tell you why.

Anyway, it brought to mind an interesting aspect of some of the books I have read for review. Often times I will know who the protagonist is, but not have a mental picture of him/her. If the book is part of a long running series, then I could understand why the author doesn’t put in a physical description of the main character, but if it the first in a series or a stand-alone book, why no description? The author doesn’t need to go into great detail, but just bits here and there.

Often times, too, in the same book where there is minimal description of the main character, there will be more details about one or more of the minor characters. The main character may be described as: a lawyer, wavy hair, medium build. Okay, that’s pretty good, I still don’t have a clear mental image. However, one of the witnesses he interviews will be: 6′, blue eyes, thinning hair, mole on his left cheek, walks with a cane, and wears glasses. His speech is breathy. That’s a wonderful description, but it’s almost wasted if that character has only one scene. Meanwhile the vague hero wanders around the entire book with nary anything known about his looks.

Why over-expose minor characters? In many books this doesn’t work for me. However, there is one series where the minor characters are essential and their descriptions and personalities are important to know.

In the Stephanie Plum series, Plum herself is, let’s be honest, a bit boring. Hold on, don’t write me emails, let me explain. I love the series but Plum has a hamster and is pretty. Other than that, what is she? A skip tracer who can’t seem to get a decent, easy case. She keeps running into weirdos. (Actually, my Mallory Petersen shares a bit of that life.) But for most of the stories, again, I don’t get a clear mental image of her.

But the supporting characters make the stories. Grandma Mazer, Ranger, Lula, Connie, Vinnie. I exclude Morelli because to me he’s just the part-time boyfriend and doesn’t get as involved in the action as much as the others.

Remove these supporting characters and you have an average series. But all of them are intertwined at points and all add comedic value. And all of them have enough description that I can see them.

I guess in one way, they are not ‘minor’ characters in the sense that they are here and gone. No, they’re not the main star, but all have their side stories and sub-plots.

So, in this series, over exposure of the supporting characters works, but only because they don’t disappear after one or two chapters. In other books, this over exposure doesn’t work because an interesting minor character may never be seen again after his/her part.

It’s a fine line sometimes.

Your opinion?

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